“Then if any man shall say to you: Lo here is Christ, or there, do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you, beforehand.”
Whence comes the thirst to ascribe justifying efficacy to implicit faith, even in the era of the New Covenant, that has caused such havoc in the Church for the last five hundred years? Surely it is a desire to flee the scandal of the Cross. The scandal of the cross is above all its particularity. This particularity expresses the gratuity of salvation. God ‘hath mercy on whom he will; and whom he will, he hardeneth’ and ‘How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher?’. These words shock us only because we will not relinquish the idea that some would stand in the judgement of God, above all ourselves. We admit that we need God’s help because the facts speak for themselves, but in our hearts we tell ourselves that God is obliged to help us. The particularity of the proclamation ‘Christ and Him crucified’ offends against this cherished lie. It rubs our noses in the fact that if God were fair all would be damned. God is not fair, He is merciful. We must ask nicely and say thank you. Divinisation is not a thing to be grasped.
God is charity, and he who abides in charity abides in God. Charity is friendship with God. But we cannot love God as our friend unless we know that He wills us to know and love Him as He knows and loves Himself. For friendship is the reciprocal willing of the good of another for the other’s own sake. Unless God Himself tells us that He loves us thus, we have no warrant to believe it, for nothing in His nature compels Him to love us thus. To hold that He does without revelation is not faith but presumption. For faith it is necessary that we believe on account of the authority of God revealing and for this we must be certain that it is God revealing, thus only an infallible authority can bear the faith to us unless it is infused directly.
In article eleven of the fourteenth Disputed Question on Truth ‘Is it necessary to believe explicitly?’, St Thomas teaches that in every age all men were obliged to believe two things explicitly (one knowable by reason the other only knowable by revelation) “’For he that comes to God must believe that He is, and is the rewarder to them that love Him’ (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, everyone in every age is bound explicitly to believe that God exists and exercises providence over human affairs.”
Nevertheless, after sin the simple belief that God wills our good for its own sake was not enough, because man knows that he is a sinner and has offended God. Man cannot, without presumption, believe after sin in God’s friendship without believing in a redeemer for “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But to believe in a redeemer requires specificity. We must point to the one who has satisfied for our sins if He is here and deny all others and trust in Him when He has yet to come. ‘For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I will see my God.’ That He has not come yet, or, when He has come, Who He is, is irreducibly particular, scandalously particular because it is God’s gift and no right of ours.
Accordingly, before sin came into the world, it was not necessary to believe explicitly the matters concerning the Redeemer, since there was then no need of the Redeemer. Nevertheless, this was implicit in their belief in divine providence, in so far as they believed that God would provide everything necessary for the salvation of those who love Him. Before and after the fall, the leaders in every age had to have explicit faith in the Trinity. Between the fall and the age of grace, however, the ordinary people did not have to have such explicit belief. Perhaps before the fall there was not such a distinction of persons that some had to be taught the faith by others. Likewise, between the fall and the age of grace, the leading men had to have explicit faith in the Redeemer, and the ordinary people only implicit faith. This was contained either in their belief in the faith of the patriarchs and prophets or in their belief in divine providence.
However, in the time of grace, everybody, the leaders and the ordinary people, have to have explicit faith in the Trinity and in the Redeemer. However, only the leaders, and not the ordinary people, are bound to believe explicitly all the matters of faith concerning the Trinity and the Redeemer. The ordinary people must, however, believe explicitly the general articles, such as that God is triune, that the Son of God was made flesh, died, and rose from the dead, and other like matters which the Church commemorates in her feasts.
Prior to the Incarnation, by what authority was this faith (that God would provide for our ransoming) promulgated? I would suggest that it was promulgated (as grace was originally to have been transmitted) by natural generation, that is by the family. And every generation, for all their distortions and accretions, has not failed to promulgate this faith in a redeemer.
I heard a voice, that cried,
“Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!”
And through the misty air
Passed like the mournful cry
Of sunward sailing cranes.
Why does St Thomas teach that Adamic faith is of no avail when it fixes on a false messiah or when the true redeemer is come? He answers this question in the following article “Is there one faith for moderns and ancients?”
We must firmly hold that there is one faith for ancients and moderns; otherwise, there would not be one Church. To support this position some have said that the proposition about the past which we believe and the one about the future which the ancients believed is the same proposition. But it does not seem right that the proposition should remain the same when its essential parts are changed. For we see that propositions are changed by reason of changes in the subject and verb.
For this reason, others have said that the propositions which we believe and which they believed are different, but that faith does not concern propositions but things. The thing, however, is the same, although the propositions are different. For they say that it belongs intrinsically to faith to believe in the resurrection of Christ, but only accidentally to faith to believe that it is or was. But this is obviously false, for, since belief is called assent, it can only be about a proposition, in which truth or falsity is found. Thus, when I say: “I believe in the resurrection,” I must understand some union [of subject and predicate]. And I must do this with reference to some time which the soul always adds in affirmative and negative propositions, as is said in The Soul. Accordingly, the sense of “I believe in the resurrection” is this: “I believe that the resurrection is, was, or will be.”
Therefore, we must say that the object of faith can be considered in two ways. First, we have the object in itself as it exists outside the soul. And it is properly in this sense that it has the character of object and is the reason why habits are one or many. Second, we have the object as it exists in the knower as participated by him. Accordingly, we have to say that, if we take as the object of faith the thing believed as it exists outside the soul, it is in this way that each thing is related to us and to the ancients. And faith gets its unity from the oneness of the object. However, if we consider faith as it is in our perception of it, it is multiplied according to different propositions. But faith is not differentiated by this diversity. From this it is evident that faith is one in every way.
This is the reason the Church solemnly defined at the Council of Florence that, with the coming of the Redeemer, the efficacy of the rites of the old law (which expressed this faith in the future redeemer) ceased. From the instant of Christ’s death no one could anymore pass from the state of mortal or original sin to that of life in God without explicit faith in Jesus Christ the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. ‘On the Cross the old law died soon to be buried and become the bearer of death’. The ascription of justifying power to implicit faith after the Passion is a denial of the gratuity of salvation and grace. It is an expression of the primeval sin of seeking to make oneself like the Most High. It is Modernism distilled to its essence, because It denies the propositional character of faith and reduces faith to a sentiment inherent to man’s nature.